Jan. 8, 2015

2015 Resolutions

2015 debuts to new commitments - for me and for future homebuyers

In the New Year, many people set new goals. Whether you’re inspired to set a personal record in a race or get that promotion at work, the key factor is you set a concrete goal requiring effort and change.

Is buying a 757 home in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, etc. on your list of 2015 goals?  If it is, here are a few home-buying resolutions I would suggest for you-

Start looking before spring.
It’s true that homes sell best in the spring. Many families are targeting the end of the school season to make a move. Of course, that’s also why searching for a home in the winter is an edge for buyers. Consider starting your search in February or March while your competing homebuyers are hibernating.

If a new home is in your future, don’t make other big purchases.
If you’re pre-approved for a loan, don’t make another financial decision before finalizing your plan to buy a home. New debt could take your preferred loan off the table. And even if you haven’t been pre-approved, if you think you will begin the search for a new home later this year, hold off on other major purchases, like a new car.

Plan way, way ahead.
Buying a home isn’t about property, it’s about your life. Think about how your family might change in the next few years - what kind of space will you need then? Choosing a home that you believe will suit you for at least five years is a good rule of thumb.

Prioritize what you want in a home. (see my recent post on what your realtor needs to know about you)

Independently, I have a few goals I’ve set too. Although most New Year’s resolutions tend to fade away after January, I’ve come up with a few that I plan to keep all year long.  

Personally, I resolve to learn something new every day. This year, I’m making time to read articles and books, discuss ideas with colleagues and attend industry events. There are endless opportunities to learn, and I want to take advantage of every resource. And it’s not just about collecting information, it’s putting that new knowledge into action. 

For my business, I resolve to stay connected. Making phone calls sending emails just  won’t cut it these days. Communication is key in this industry and esse

ntial to growing business. Staying active on social network sites such a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and of course this blog are all venues to connect with past, present and potential clients. 

For my clients looking for homes in Hampton Roads, I resolve to give them the best home buying/selling experience around. My clients are a driving force for me. I will respect their time, do everything I can to meet (and beat) their expectations, and work to be a trusted advisor to every client.


What are you 2015 resolutions?

Posted in Goals
Nov. 27, 2014

What to tell your realtor before house-hunting

Buying a home doesn’t have to be an intimidating, overwhelming experience – and that’s true even if you’re moving to an entirely new area. What’s most important when buying a new home is understanding what matters to you most, and relaying that information back to your realtor. Be very specific and share as many details as possible when explaining your requirements for a new home with your realtor. The search process will be much smoother when your real estate agent is on the same page as you and knows exactly what you’re looking for. 

The first thing your realtor will need to know is budget. There are a number of mortgage calculators available online that can help you understand how your income, debts and expenses affect what you can afford. And, your realtor can help you get pre-approved for a home loan to set the limit on what you will spend.

Once you’ve set your budget, be specific about your needs and requirements in a home. Remember to ask yourself:

Are you looking for a move-in ready home or are you open to renovations?

Do school zones factor into your decision?

How might your situation change in the next few years – are you married or planning for kids?  Or is an older family member likely to need a first-floor bedroom when they visit?

Do you need a fence?

What do you dislike about your current place – no garage, outdated kitchen, etc.?  This is your chance to make that a priority.  This might also include his and her sinks, wood floors or walk-in closets.

How far are you willing to commute?

And –  if you’re buying this home with your spouse, find out their answers as well. Finding disagreements or negotiating priorities when you're already out looking at homes can take away from how exciting the home buying process really can be.

Once you’ve determined what’s important, share these priorities with your realtor. Requirements and preferences for a home can be endless, but the more information you provide, the better us realtors can choose properties that suit your needs. Keep in mind that a house may not come with every feature you desire, so try to prioritize accordingly and explain what’s a must-have feature and what’s a nice-to-have feature.

In addition, consider your long-term plans and communicate these current and future goals with your realtor. If you are moving temporarily and plan on selling your house after five years, you may want to look at different real estate than you would look at if you planned to live in the home long term. 

The more you communicate with you realtor about family, lifestyle and hobbies, the more likely it is you will see homes that are a fit for you. While your realtor may never be a mind reader (well except for me, but I just have a knack, what can I say…just kidding of course!), this will help them learn what’s important to you and how your new home will fit into your life. You never know, your realtor may even come up with a few ideas and suggestions that you hadn’t even considered when imagining your dream home!


What features are must-haves for your next home? What features do you aspire for in your dream home?

Posted in Home Ownership
Nov. 21, 2014

Get to know the 757: 5 hotspots for seafood with a view in Virginia Beach

Being ocean-side, the 757 is home to restaurants that know seafood, particularly on the oceanfront in Virginia Beach. Restaurants in Virginia Beach take advantage of the easy access we have to the ocean, fishing and the fresh seafood that comes with it. 

Many restaurants known for their seafood also include atmosphere you can’t match anywhere else, with amazing views to accompany top-notch cuisine. Whether you’re looking for a 5 star restaurant or a quaint little dive, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite Virginia Beach hotspots with the best seafood around. 

1. One Fish, Two Fish

One Fish-Two Fish is located in the Pier House building of Long Bay Pointe Marina. The airy atmosphere of the restaurant is set by the panoramic views overlooking the waterway. One Fish-Two Fish serves line-caught local seafood and organic produce. (They also have top quality meats if you need to satisfy a friend with a seafood aversion). The award-winning menu is inspired by California - with a contemporary twist). And it’s a great place to taste “boutique” style wines.  

2. Watermans Surfside Grille

Waterman’s Surfside Grille is a family-owned restaurant that captures a slice of coastal living. The restaurant is located at 5th and Atlantic on the boardwalk. Waterman’s offers oceanfront patio dining, an outdoor bar and is famous for their signature cocktail- the Orange Crush. The menu includes a selection of fresh local catch, Chesapeake lump crab cakes, flounder, shrimp and salmon. Waterman’s is a casual, friendly place within walking distance to the boardwalk and is a place for the entire family to enjoy.  

3. Mahi Mahs 

Mahi Mah’s is a laid back restaurant located along the oceanfront. The awesome seafood and live entertainment has made Mahi Mah’s a local favorite year after year. The menu features the largest sushi selection on the oceanfront, seafood buckets and platters, 18 beers on tap and a wine list awarded the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. A phenomenal view is guaranteed almost anywhere in the restaurant especially on one of the two outdoor patios that overlook the boardwalk. 

4. Catch 31

Catch 31 is a multi-venue seafood dining experience located along one of the trendiest stretches of the oceanfront. The eclectic interior with soaring ceilings and cool blue walls feature an open-air kitchen with hardwood fire grill and raw bar. Catch 31 offers the largest selection in fresh fish, oysters and seafood in the area. The outdoor terrace has a bar, fire pits and seating overlooking Neptune’s Park. Dining at Catch 31 is always a fun, memorable experience.  

These are only four great reasons to look for a home in Virginia Beach where you have easy access to these surfside restaurants. It’s a sneak peak into life in Virginia Beach – and seafood you won’t get anywhere else.

5. Big Sam’s 

Situated right on Rudee Inlet with a beautiful view and outside waiting area, Big Sam’s was ranked by Coastal Living Magazine as one of America’s Best Seafood Dives in 2011 among other notable awards. Opened in 1996 by a former competitive surfer, lover of the ocean and a friend of many fisherman, Sam set out to create a restaurant that catered to people who had the same love and appreciation for the water and beach lifestyle as him. Big Sam’s holds true to the owner’s vision, loved by tourists and locals alike, the seafood dive is a friendly place open to anyone looking for friendly service, a great meal, a cold beer and good conversation. Their happy hour is well known with drink, wing, clam and shrimp specials everyday from 3-7pm and all day until 7pm on Sunday. From their killer breakfast to their stellar specials and the best homemade pies around, Big Sam’s is definitely a must if your near the Virginia Beach Oceanfront.  


Virginia Beach locals, what would you add to this list of Oceanfront favorites?

Nov. 13, 2014

Breaking It Down: Types of home loans

Education and research are crucial when it comes to home buying and mortgage shopping in Hampton Roads. With an infinite variety of loan options out there, Houser Homes has narrowed down the most popular and explained the differences and benefits of each to make it as straight-forward and easy to understand as possible. 

One of the first decisions you will make as a home buyer is whether you want a fixed-rate or an adjustable-rate mortgage loan. All loans fall into one of these two categories.  The Fixed-Rate loan is the most popular type of mortgage loan among homebuyers because it is the most stable and predictable.  The interest rate and monthly payments stay the same over the entire repayment term, which is typically 30 years. This option is generally recommended for buyers who plan to stay in a home long term, for many years.

If you plan on living in a home for few years, you may want to consider the Adjustable Rate mortgage loan (ARMs).  The interest rate will change or “adjust” from time to time over the life of the loan - typically, each year after an initial period of remaining fixed.  An ARM usually offers a lower initial rate than fixed rate loans, but eventually adjusts. 

Once you’ve determined whether you want a fixed rate or adjustable rate, you will need to decide whether you want conventional or government-insured financing. 

A conventional loan is not backed or guaranteed by the government in any way but may be insured by a private mortgage insurance company. 

A government-insured financing is typically easier to obtain than conventional loans, especially for borrowers with smaller down payments or issues with their credit. 

FHA Loan

The FHA loan is one of the most popular types of loans because it is offered to all types of borrowers, not just first-time buyers. The program is insured by the Federal Housing Administration under the Department of Housing and Urban Development. With the FHA loan, you are allowed to make a down payment as low as 3.5 percent of the purchase price. However, you will have to pay for mortgage insurance, which results in an increased monthly payments. 

VA Loan

The VA loan is offered by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and is generally limited to military service members and their families. The biggest benefit to this type of loan is that borrowers can receive 100 percent financing for the purchase of a new home with no money down.  This loan can be used while serving active duty and/or your have discharged from the service. It can also be used more than once and in succession with other outstanding VA loans.  


The USDA provides 100 percent for qualified buyers who live in rural areas. It is only offered to residents who have a low/moderate yet steady income, but are not able to obtain housing through conventional financing. 

Ultimately, getting pre-approved will help you make the final determination with a loan officer.  Your realtor can connect you with a loan officer and kick off the process of choosing a loan. Then you can begin to search for the right home for you and your family. 


Are there any other loan questions you’d like to see on the Houser on Houses blog?

Posted in Home Ownership
Nov. 3, 2014

Renting vs. Buying - The Tipping Point

Owning a home is a dream and goal for most Hampton Roads residents. Of course, it’s no secret that buying a home is one of the biggest financial investments you will make in your lifetime. There is some good news about investing in a home, however - in 2014, the cost of homeownership, including mortgage, insurance, taxes and maintenance, is less than the cost of renting (say what?!). 

 One reason for the improved buying conditions is that the 30-year fixed interest rate for mortgages has been lower this year than last. The other is that renting costs are rising faster than home prices due to the strong demand. The market is looking up, but there are some personal factors you should evaluate to determine whether you’re at the tipping point and ready to buy. 

When deciding whether to continue renting a home or to make the commitment to buy, meeting with a realtor can help you get started. To get a jump start, here are some points to consider:  

You are committed to living in the same location for a few years. 

When purchasing a home, the general rule is that you want to make sure you’ll be in the same location for at least five years. Owning a home requires a longer time to build equity

You have a secure job and income. 

The rule of thumb is that you can buy a house that costs about two and a half times your salary. Make sure you have a stable job. And if there’s a possibility that your job could move you out of the market, focus on buying in areas that will be easy to rent.

You have enough saved for a down payment.

For first time buyers, there are different types of home loans that will help you secure funding. Depending on your situation, you may qualify for an FHA, VA, Conventional or be able to pay with cash.  Everyones lending will be different and remember to take potential big future changes into account when you calculate this - like whether you’ll get married, have kids or will need to replace your car soon. 

Even if you do meet the three criteria above, it may be tough to determine when to start making moves in the direction of home ownership. Take the time to research the Hampton Roads market. Recent reports show that Hampton Roads’ home sales have rebounded. If prices are increasing in a neighborhood you love, you’ll want to buy soon. If they are slowly decreasing, consider the rate at which they are falling. If they’re falling slowly, and you’re ready to make the jump, it may not be worth waiting for a lower price. 

Spring and summer are the busiest times of year for real estate and can be the best time to purchase your home. On the other hand, because there are so many houses on the market, there may be more competition. During the winter, sellers tend to be more flexible because the next homebuyer may not be around the corner. There are also fewer people looking for houses over the holidays, which could be perfect timing with less competition to snag a dream home in Hampton Roads.

Once you have decided you’re ready, here are the first steps to take: 

Get pre-approved. Few people have enough cash to buy a home without a mortgage. A mortgage broker will look at several loan companies to find the best rates. If you’re not sure where to begin, it’s likely that your realtor will have a recommendation. I personally have a great relationship with an awesome loan officer at Monarch Mortgage that can help you determine what you qualify for before we head out on the house hunt!

Research loan types and payment options. Usually a fixed rate is the best option. Your interest remains the same for the life of the loan and the payment is split into equal monthly payment for the duration of the loan. 

Your realtor (cough, cough) is the best person to guide you through this process, so be sure to share your goals – more on that in my next post!

What questions do you have? If you’ve bought a home before, what tips would you add for new homebuyers?



Posted in Home Ownership
Oct. 6, 2014

The Top 5 Best Fall Activities in Hampton Roads

Many people love fall for its brisk days, changing colors and how it introduces a season of pumpkin-spiced fare. In Hampton Roads, fall might be your favorite season for many reasons from the variety of festivals to the mild yet brisk fall weather. Across Hampton Roads residents can find a span of great traditional fall picks, such as pumpkin picking in Virginia Beach and spooky ghost tours in Chesapeake. Whether your home is in Norfolk, Suffolk or another city in Hampton Roads, here are a few fall season activities and favorites you won’t want to miss - 


Pick Your Pumpkin – and then some (Chesapeake)

Picking pumpkins is extra fun at the Hickory Ridge Farm in Chesapeake because families can enjoy much more than choosing a pumpkin. 

Every weekend in October, the farm’s fall festival includes pony rides, hayrides with storybook characters, face painting and a bounce house. Kids can also meet farm animals and run through the corn maze. For fall hours and additional details visit HamptonRoads.com 


Get Spooked! - Haunted Hayrides & more  (Virginia Beach/Chesapeake)

Hunt Club Farm is a main attraction in Virginia Beach during the month of October. From the hayride through the woods filled with haunted creatures and spooks, to the pumpkin patch, fresh apple cider and petting farm, there’s something for the whole family to enjoy. 

If you plan to ride the haunted hayride, especially if you plan your trip close to Halloween weekend, it’s best to get your tickets in advance. Find them on the Haunted Hunt Club website for $25/person. (Hunt Club also holds auditions for actors – start working on your scariest make-up and costume, and mark your calendar for August, you goblin you!). 

If the idea of the Haunted Hunt Club gives you nightmares (or if your the type of family that lives for the thrill of a good spook), there’s a fun and spooky train ride at Northwest River Park in Chesapeake.  The Ghost Train is a half-hour ride that’s family friendly, and train riders are encouraged to come in costume.


Clink Your Glass to the Harvest Season (Norfolk)

The Town Point Virginia Wine Festival celebrates Virginia wines with more than 30 Virginia wineries represented at the annual event in Norfolk’s Town Point Park on October 18 and 19. 

Just how lucky are we to live in Hampton Roads? Wine Enthusiast Magazine called Virginia one of the 10 best destinations in the world for wine. Indulge in a couple glasses of wine with friends and family while enjoying the crisp fall weather and the Elizabeth River waterfront view at this fall festival.

If you can’t make the weekend of the 18th, Chesapeake’s annual wine festival is October 11, and tickets are the same price.


Intensify Training Time to Prepare for the Best Races of the Year (Virginia Beach, Norfolk)

Fall is a great time of year to train for a race in Hampton Roads.  The annual Wicked 10K draws crowds to the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, where runners dress up in costumes and Halloween faire!  Even if you’re not quite ready for longer distances, there are a number of great 5Ks in the fall, including the Beach Monster Dash on October 12 and the Taste of Town Center on November 15, both in Virginia Beach.


While these are all great races, Houser Home Team’s favorite race pick for fall 2015 is the new race J&A Racing will put on, the Blue Moon Harbor Lights Half Marathon and 5K. The event will take place in Norfolk the week before Thanksgiving, so you’re sure to work up a sweat and really earn those post race Blue Moons (and that Thanksgiving Day feast).





Celebrate with Local Fare. (Hampton, Suffolk)

Food festivals are a great fall tradition in Hampton Roads, and it’s no surprise that seafood is a popular featured food. If you’re planning an oyster roast in the backyard of your Hampton Roads home, check out these tips for hosting an oyster roast in the Tidewater tradition.  Otherwise, any of the following food festivals are a good bet for fall -


October 17-19: Poquoson Seafood Festival (Poquoson)

October 24: City Center Oyster Roast (Hampton)

November 15: Aww Shucks! Oyster Roast at the Virginia Living Museum (Newport News)

If shellfish isn’t your style, there are still great options.  Check out Suffolk’s Peanut Festival, which attracts 125,000 people each year, or the food truck gathering planned at City Center in Newport News. 

Whatever your personal picks for fall activities are, enjoy the season and all that Hampton Roads has to offer. It’s certainly an easy task for fall in the seven cities!

And for the weekends when you don’t have an activity or football game, consider making a few updates to your home.  In our last post, we cover some things you’ll need to do before you put your home on the market in Hampton Roads – if you do them now, you’ll have time to enjoy the upgrades in your home before you decide to sell it. [Link to previous post]

What are your favorite fall activities? What would you add to the list?

Sept. 29, 2014

5 Home Upgrades that Sell: Must Read Tips for Hampton Roads Homeowners

 Putting your house up for sale is a big decision. Maybe you’re looking for more space for the kids, headed to a new city in HRVA or relocating outside of Hampton Roads for work (we’ll miss you!).  Regardless, life doesn’t stop when a home goes on the market. You’ll have enough to worry about as you plan your move and tackle your own new home search, and most importantly, preparing your home to sell.  

Therefore, here are 5 upgrades and priorities every home owner should consider before putting your HRVA home on the market -


1. Fix what’s obviously broken.

It could be a missing shingle outside or a gutter askew, but small fixes to obvious problems can make a difference in the home buying process. Many homebuyers will ask you to make repairs before closing anyway, so why not make repairs before your home ever hits the market? 

Obvious repairs can either limit your offers or become negotiating points in the buyers’ favor.  There may be easy fixes that you simply haven’t noticed lately. Ask someone who isn’t in your home every day to help you with a candid “mock” walk-through.

2. Upgrade first impressions.

When homebuyers fall in love with a home, it’s rarely because of the second floor linen closet (unless of course, you love a spacious closet that much). Rethink the familiar trip from your car to your front door to see your home with fresh eyes.  Do your hedges or trees need trimming?  Does your mailbox or front door need a coat of paint?  Keep in mind that when you’re on the market, you’ll need to cut the grass regularly.  A new doormat and fresh flowers are another inexpensive way to improve your curb appeal. 

HGTV has a thorough curb appeal checklist (PDF) for sellers, so choose a few items as your first and second priorities and begin preparing your home one item at a time.

3. Modernize hardware.

If your home is outfitted with brassy 80s fixtures, the house may give across an outdated impression even if you’ve made major upgrades over the years. While you may consider letting your homebuyers take care of it, remember that the newer neighborhood down the street in Virginia Beach or Chesapeake may have the same square footage as you, but already has these updates. These are the details that sway a final decision to make an offer. Fortunately, they’re details you can easily (and cost efficiently) avoid. 

Overstock.com has affordable faucets and knobs in brushed nickel, chrome or oiled-rubbed bronze. This is a small change that can help you get the best dollar for your home, and many find it easy to do-it-yourself

4. Freshen up the walls.

It doesn’t matter if it’s soft yellow or bright red: homebuyers respond best to a neutral space, free from a distracting paint color. Painting a home top to bottom can take a lot of time, so focus on important spaces (main living areas, kitchen) first, or on painting in rooms that have the boldest colors. 

If you’re concerned about choosing a white that looks institutional-grade, see Benjamin Moore’s top 100 paint colors. Choosing from their variations of white can still make your home look sophisticated, instead of too plain.

5. Sell a lifestyle.

One of the smartest upgrades doesn’t cost a thing. Tell the best story about your Hampton Roads home in its listing to make sure homebuyers come through the door. For example, a Virginia Beach home, a Chesapeake home, nearly every home in Hampton Roads, is in close proximity to water.  Mention the nearest water view, and homebuyers can already see themselves on the shore. If you’re blocks from Norfolk or Chesapeake’s Elizabeth River or minutes from the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, be sure your listing says so.  

Think of the things you’ll miss about your neighborhood or home, and sell potential future owners of your home on a lifestyle. The best attributes of your neighborhood may be obvious to you now, but not to many potential Hampton Roads buyers who are researching online and may not be as familiar with the area.  

Even if you’re not on the market yet, what are some home updates you plan to make and enjoy now, that you hope will help you later if you plan to sell? What updates do you want to see when you’re in search of a new home?

Posted in Selling